Motivation. Hard work. Grit. These are the three crucial ingredients in the recipe for success — a recipe that Cal women’s gymnastics has ingrained in its diet and produced on the competition stage over the last two weeks.
Beginning with the Super 16, the Jan. 7 meet that opened the season for the Bears, the team put the recipe to use as they emerged victorious against Iowa, Arizona and BYU, taking home several accolades: first in their session, second overall and a program high season-opening 197.475.
“We have a very, very motivated group this year. The chemistry is excellent, the energy amongst the team and the staff is just all clicking,” said head coach Justin Howell. “It makes what we’re doing out on the competition floor fun, and not work. And that’s our goal every week, we want to be the team on the floor that has the most fun.”
The program’s first-place performance showed through in its national ranking as well, proving itself a worthy contender on the national stage as it enters its next meet with a No. 3 ranking.
This past Saturday, the Bears hit the road once again as they traveled to the Wasatch Classic in Utah to face Oregon State, Iowa and Pitt — their recipe in hand. Notably, the program began on their self-reportedly least strong event, vault, something the team has looked to improve this season.
“My personal goal was really to improve on vault,” said sophomore Mya Lauzon. “Last year I had a weird season with vault, it was just very inconsistent. This preseason I tried to train and focus on details and I got more consistent, and that was kind of my main goal. So with these two meets so far, I’ve been meeting that so that’s been a really good thing for me.”
And Cal certainly showed its improvement as Lauzon led the way on vault for the Bears with a 9.925, taking second on the event overall. Following closely behind, Neveah DeSouza, Andi Li and eMjae Frazier walked away from the meet with matching 9.900s.
The Bears finished the first rotation in the lead with 49.450, Oregon State in second with 49.325, and headed off to the uneven bars to start the second rotation. The second rotation marked arguably the most momentous moment of the meet for the Bears, particularly for one fresh-out-of-hibernation Bear.
For Ella Cesario, the sophomore who sustained a knee injury 36 months ago, the Wasatch Classic was only the second meet she’d competed in since. This hibernation time seemed to have no affect on her ability to fly, however. Scoring a 9.925, the sophomore, alongside fellow teammate Andi Li, took first on the event for the Bears.
Oregon State standout and Olympian Jade Carey took first overall on all other events, but Cesario and Li claimed the bars for Cal.
“So many emotions, I feel proud of myself, I feel grateful for my team and my coaches. Trusting in my success. It feels very good to be back,” said Cesario. “I’ve never taken first before, so it felt really good. And to share the title with Andi — Andi is like a queen, so I feel honored, honestly.”
Moving on to the third rotation, the Bears walked away from beam with two notable showings: another 9.925 by Li, as well as a 9.900 for Gabby Perea. Although their performances on beam were not as successful as other events, the program remained in the lead, with Oregon State once again falling closely behind.
As the team closed out the meet on floor, two 9.925s by Li and Lauzon secured yet another first place victory for Cal, finishing the meet 197.525. This is the power of grit, motivation and hard work.
This Friday, the team will once again hit the road as they face Arizona in Tucson.
“Every single person on our team just works their tail off every single day … I love all our teams, but I feel like this group has something special,” Howell said. “You feel that chemistry and that energy that they have together. They truly enjoy being around each other, and I know our coaching staff truly enjoys being around them too.”